A love of the game

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Hasaan Hawthorne loves baseball. He loves watching it on television and playing it in the park. His favorite player is, for the moment, Derek Jeter. His favorite team is the Tampa Bay Devil Rays &045;&045; for the moment.

He wants to grow up to play major league ball, and nothing, not even the fact that he is a double amputee, is going to stop him.

Hasaan was born with a rare condition known as Tibial Hemimelia, which causes babies to be born without shinbones. His mother, Felecia Hawthorne, said they were completely unaware of the condition until Hasaan was born.

&uot;Everything looked fine during the pregnancy,&uot; she said. &uot;We didn’t realize there was something wrong until he was delivered.&uot;

Hasaan was born June 28, 1998, in Montgomery, and Felecia and father Demond quickly began to look for medical answers to his condition.

&uot;We went to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham and had doctors there examine him when he was a day old,&uot; she said. &uot;The doctors told us that the best thing for Hasaan was to have his legs amputated. We just couldn’t accept that at first.&uot;

The Hawthornes packed up and headed to Emory Hospital in Atlanta, Ga. There they met with another specialist who gave them the same choice &045;&045; continuous surgeries or amputation.

&uot;We really didn’t want Hasaan to keep having to go through surgeries,&uot; Hawthorne said. &uot;Amputation turned out to be the best thing for him.&uot;

Hasaan’s legs were amputated when he was 14 months old, and from then on, the energetic child never looked back.

For the last two years he has played on a team in the Pelham Youth League, starting at first base, outfield and catcher. His favorite part about baseball is throwing people out, but if he had his way, he’d only play catcher.

His mother sees him growing up to be an orthopedist or a dentist, but Hasaan has already got it all planned out.

&uot;I’m going to play in the Minors as a pitcher,&uot; he states confidently. &uot;And then I’m going to play as a catcher in the Majors.&uot;

Anybody who’s watched Hasaan run the bases, or simply play a game of catch, knows he is special. His disability isn’t his hindrance. If anything, it’s yet another challenge he gets to overcome. So far, he’s been extremely successful.

&uot;Hasaan has grown up just like any kid his age,&uot; his mother said. &uot;He can wear shoes, walk and run.&uot;

The baseball field, however, is not where Hasaan’s many successes end. In June, his family took him to compete in the Endeavor Games in Oklahoma, an &uot;Olympics&uot; for people with physical disabilities.

He came home with two gold medals &045;&045; one in the 60-meter dash and one in the softball throw.

Hasaan will be hitting the ballpark soon as fall ball gets under way in Pelham. Look for him in the outfield, throwing people out at home plate. Unless he’s playing catcher, of course, because then he’ll be &uot;throwing them out at all the bases.&uot;

When he was born, nobody could have predicted Hasaan to be the able-bodied and energetic kid he is today.

But for the past six years, the idea that he might be &uot;different&uot; from other kids his age hasn’t crossed Hasaan’s mind. He’s been too busy working on his fastball